The Handmaidís Tale -- ìThe Wildernessî - Episode 410 -- June draws on all her resources and relationships, risking everything to ensure her own kind of justice.

Handmaid’s Tale season 4 recap: why the finale’s shocking twist is so bloody horrifying

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This article contains spoilers for The Wilderness (aka episode 10, season four of The Handmaid’s Tale), so do not proceed unless you are fully up-to-date with the Channel 4 show. 

The fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale is over and, once again, it has left viewers with a devastating cliffhanger of an ending. 

We admit it: we’d previously hoped – considering that June (Elisabeth Moss) made it to Canada, reunited with Luke (OT Fagbenle) and Moira (Samira Wiley), and seen the Waterfords (Yvonne Stravohski and Joseph Fiennes) behind bars – for something not unlike a happy ever after.

Instead, we witnessed June throw her freedom, friends, and family aside in order to make good on her personal need for vengeance.

After discovering that Fred Waterford will be pardoned for his crimes in exchange for his testimony, June decides that Canadian government does not have the best interests of Gilead’s victims at heart.

And so, instead of letting the government pardon her abuser and rapist – and, in turn, potentially gain the information it needs to bring down Gilead – she turns to her erstwhile lover, Nick (Max Minghella) and the morally dubious Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford).

“They know what he was, what he did and how it felt, they made a deal with him anyway,” she says. “So maybe what he’s giving them is more valuable than what he took from me.” 

Joseph Fiennes as The Handmaid's Tale's Fred Waterford
June decided to secure her own justice against Fred Waterford in The Handmaid’s Tale S4 finale.

June didn’t act alone, of course. First, she had Tuello (Sam Jaeger) escort Fred out of Canada, where he was met by Commander Lawrence and Nick, who cuffed him and delivered him to June.

Our eponymous Handmaid then offered Fred a choice; a gun, or a whistle. He opted for the latter, and immediately regretted it; that shrill tone was answered by hordes of women, all of whom had been broken by Waterford and the regime he created back in Gilead.

Using their teeth, their bare hands, and whatever else they could find in the woods, June led these women in a Particicution, aka one of the barbaric ritualised group murders the Handmaids were encouraged to commit back in Gilead to help them exorcise their rage. It was a bloody and brutal end for Fred – and some might suggest a fitting one, considering Margaret Atwood’s original text credits Commander Waterford with dreaming up the idea of the Particicution in the first place.

The next morning, her husband, Luke, finds a bloodied and dishevelled June cradling her baby daughter at home. He doesn’t seem to know what she’s done (and he definitely doesn’t know that she mailed a piece of Fred to Serena, confirming her role in his murder), but his horrified expression is more than enough to get June talking.

“I know. I’m sorry,” she whispers desperately. “Just give me five minutes, OK? Just give me five minutes with her, then I’ll go.”

Where, though, is June planning to go? Will she flee Canada and return to Gilead? Will she stay and be prosecuted? Can Luke ever forgive her for choosing Old Testament retribution over the future of their family? And have her brutal revenge tactics finally resolved her of her need for justice?

As ever, this episode has left us with a lot of questions. Here, Stylist’s digital editor-at-large Kayleigh Dray does her best to unravel all of them.

Handmaid’s Tale S4 finale: June says goodbye to baby Nichole
Will June ever see her baby daughter again?

Why (and when) did June decide to kill Fred Waterford?

Somewhat surprisingly, Elisabeth Moss has said that it is Fred Waterford’s apologies that drive her to kill him, and not his constant denial of his role in her pain.

“She goes to him in that scene because she’s trying to figure out what to do. And she’s trying to figure out who she is. And he tells her in that scene who she is. He clarifies, for her, everything. With his apologies, he signs his death sentence,” she tells TV Line

“The idea for her that this man could understand what he did to the point of where he feels guilt about it or feels like he could apologize is so much worse than him being a sociopath or having multiple personalities or having some reason that could in any way explain why he has done what he has done to her. But the fact that he feels remorse makes him human, which means that he knew what he was doing. And so that’s it. That’s the end for him.”

Showrunner Bruce Miller adds to EW: “We had a conversation with the refugees, and [they said] that the worst moment was when their abuser apologised. When they realised their abuser knew all along it was wrong from the very beginning. So that’s the moment where June decides he should not be on the earth anymore.”

Will June ever be able to come back from this?

While there’s no denying that June deserved justice, many have expressed horror at the way she determined to obtain it. Indeed, throughout this season we have seen our former hero call upon many of Gilead’s cruellest tactics: the Red Circle, the Particicutions, the dismemberment, the psychological torture. And, in giving in to her rage (rather than following Moira’s advice and finding a way to push past it), it seems she has disappeared down a dark path that nobody can follow.

“I think June is a different woman,” says Joseph Fiennes to the NY Times, “much to the horror of Luke. 

“She metaphorically and literally has blood on her hands. It’s that paradox of revenge. She is the product of Gilead now.”

Moss agrees, telling TV Line: “From June’s point of view, she knows the fight that is on their hands, she can only fight in this one way. Clearly, she gave that testimony at the International Criminal Court and it didn’t do anything. Clearly, this group therapy isn’t doing anything. Clearly, Fred’s going to get away with it. And she can’t let that happen.”

Will June leave Canada? And, if so, where will she go?

When Luke walks in on June and Nichole, it seems as if the former is gearing up to say goodbye to them both forever. But is that truly the case?

“I don’t know if she’s gonna leave,” says Miller, in an interview with EW. “She feels like she has to. We are five minutes from her reckoning, but Luke has just walked in and seen his bloody wife holding a child. And he doesn’t know what happened yet. So I think based on the episode before where her flashback with Luke says, ‘I’ll love whatever you become. Don’t worry, I love whatever you turn into.’ In this moment, she’s saying, ‘Yeah, remember when he said that? This is obviously not true. So I’ll go.’ But he may come back and say, ‘No, no, no, no.’

“I think in the moment, it feels very final, but it’s a very dramatic moment, a very dramatic episode. She’s been up all night, and this horrible thing happened. He wakes up in the morning. I mean, it could not be a more fraught moment. So does she feel like she has irreparably broken her marriage and her role as a mother? Sure. Will she feel that way tomorrow? I don’t know.”

How will Serena react to the news of Fred’s death?

Speaking about her character’s reaction to Fred’s death, Yvonne Strahovski tells TV Line that she imagines Serena will not be able to let this go – if only out of fear for the safety of herself and her unborn child. 

“[June] wants Serena to live in absolute fear, if and when she gets out of the detention centre. I mean, could you imagine?” she says.

“If you knew that someone was out there, outside, capable of doing something like that to your husband or your partner, and then, you’re trying to live out in the real world, with a baby? I just think that is the most paranoid existence you could ever live, knowing that June has done what she’s done.”

Miller, however, has a slightly different view of the situation.

“I think that Serena is the one you really have to worry about, or the one I am worried about. Because Serena, although she has mixed feelings about Fred, and certainly the death of your abuser is a complicated emotional thing I imagine, she also does not like to lose,” he tells EW.

“And I think she would definitely feel like this is June coming into her house and taking something from her specifically, and then gloating by sending her the finger and the ring. So I think that June has definitely poked Serena, and it’s gonna be very interesting to see how she decides to come back because honestly, she’s actually got an easier situation because now she can use Fred without having the bother of actually having Fred around.”

What does all of this mean for season five of The Handmaid’s Tale?

Essentially, it seems season four duped us: June never escaped Gilead. Not really. Because it burns bright in her brain and in her heart, and she continues to be controlled by its vicious regime, despite all the distance she’s put between herself and it.

So what does this mean for the show’s much-anticipated fifth series? 

Miller hints darkly: “Well, it’s definitely Sophie’s Choice: The Series, in that you’re moving on with someone who’s made these terrible choices. And unlike a movie version, we know what her choices were; we’re in her pain and her trauma. So that’s really interesting.”

He continues: “I think moving forward, there’s really a couple of things. It’s the American story - can we snap back to normal, or do we have to move on into something new? And that’s where June is right now. She’s done this terrible thing, or what she feels like is irredeemable. Can she snap back? Or does she have to decide that sometimes you not only have to sacrifice part of your life, but you have to sacrifice your whole life to making the world better for the next generation?

“The story moving forward is about the long fight, and how do you keep up energy, enthusiasm, sanity, all of those things, while you’re trying to fight for something that you may never see the end of, or you may never see the good from it? It may all be just for your children or your children’s children. 

“How do you keep those fights worthy? So I think that for June, it’s the integration of June the warrior and Offred the warrior, into June the mother and Offred the mother.”

Will June ever be able to trust the Canadian justice system again?

As reported on 15 August: June believes that Tuello has betrayed her in allowing the Waterford to go free in exchange for their own testimony against Gilead. Even if the tactic does result in Gilead’s downfall, it is not the justice she craves for her former rapists and captors – and, considering how angry our eponymous Handmaid is, it’s difficult to believe she will ever be able to come around to this idea. Will she, then, take matters into her own hands?

Speaking on the Awards Circuit podcast, Moss asks us to put ourselves in June’s shoes, explaining: “How are you ever a normal person again? How do you ever interact with anyone you once would? I feel like she’s just trying to keep it down, she’s trying to bury it, she’s trying to keep a lid on it, and I just I’m not sure if she’s going to be able to, or if you want her to.”

Adding that she understands exactly why June is giving in to her rage, she adds: “That’s how I feel and that’s how June feels when she’s like, ‘Really? This is what we’re doing?’” Is what they’re doing and the resistance movement in Canada really going to get anything done? That’s the question June faces.”

Does Luke realise how much Nick means to June?

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, OT Fagbenle explains that, while Luke sees Nick as a “real threat” to his relationship with June, he doesn’t see it as love.

“He doesn’t know. He knows there is a sexual attraction. It’s an interesting question whether or not two people who meet under such traumatic situations can have a real love for each other and if that can be a genuine thing,” he says.

“[And] I don’t think Luke’s love for June is going anywhere. Luke says it in that flashback in episode six where she says, ‘What if I’m not who you think I am?’ And he says, ‘Well, I’ll love whoever you turn out to be.’ I think it’s true. That Luke, for better or for worse, is destined to love whoever she turns out to be.”

Is this the last time that Nick and June will ever see each other?

It all felt very final, that scene between them, but showrunner Bruce Miller has hinted that the pair do have some semblance of a future together.

“Does she have a future with Nick? Of course,” he tells THR. “Would you have expected them to have any future at all once she left the Waterford house? They’ve said goodbye permanently so many times, I absolutely believe there’s a way for them to see each other again. They’ve kept that balloon up in the air for a long time.”

Is Janine truly succumbing to Aunt Lydia and Gilead’s regime once again?

Back in the Red Centre, Janine (Madeline Brewer) has been taken under the wing of the formidable Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) – and she earns her tutor’s praise and gratitude when she convinces Esther Keyes (Mckenna Grace) to give up her hunger strike, start eating, and embrace her new life as a Handmaid.

But don’t worry, friends; this doesn’t mean that Janine is back on the Gilead bandwagon.

“I don’t think in any way she is cuddling up to Aunt Lydia,” Miller reassures us. “What she says to Esther is the essence to her strategy: ‘You have to stay alive for when things get better.’ And she’s fucking great at staying alive. 

“If you consider what Janine’s been through, she is now walking around the Red Centre and she’s not getting beaten, she doesn’t have a new assignment. She’s doing very well with her less-confrontational management style – to go along and get by and, when the opportunity comes along, run for the train crossing.”

And is June gearing up for a villainous ending?

“I’m tired of telling stories about heroes,” says Miller. “We’ve talked a lot about heroes. Let’s talk about people for a while. I do think that a lot of this season has been not ‘be careful what you wish for,’ but ‘be thoughtful about how you achieve it.’”

He adds: “We’re living in a time where we keep thinking that if we change presidents or if we cure the disease or get out of the house, everything will be wonderful and fine. It’s more nuanced than that and I think that’s what the season really ends up being about. When you get the thing that you’ve been fighting for, it just reveals that you have more things to fight for.”

Why was June so calm during her testimony against the Waterfords?

As reported on 8 August: When June testifies, she doesn’t allow the anger to take over; instead, she remains cool, calm, and collected.

“The reason why I suppose I chose to play it the way that I played it was because June is not an actress delivering an angry speech,” Elisabeth Moss explains to Variety

“She’s written this speech… she’s practically memorised it, she knows that the way that she has to deliver this is in a calm way to get the information across.”

How have Fred and Serena become Canada’s new It Couple?

When the Waterfords leave the courtroom in Testimony, they are met with a crowd of baying supporters. And Moss, who directed this episode, says she purposely cut back and forth between the couple and various people in the crowd.

The fact that there’s “anyone supporting them in Canada was chilling,” she tells Variety, but she was also mindful of not making the crowd too large – and not just because they were filming amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather, it’s because of why the couple have suddenly garnered so much support; the news of their unborn child.

“It was only recently that the news about the pregnancy would have come out, and so their fandom couldn’t be outrageous,” she adds. “They’re not Justin Bieber all of a sudden.”

Is June responsible for what happened to Aunt Irene?

It is June who invites Aunt Irene to the support group, so that she and Emily can duke it out. It is June, too, who berates and interrogates the woman; Emily is, for the most part, silent. And it is June who gets the most satisfaction out of the encounter, treating it as just another element of her anger-fuelled catharsis.

She behaves, throughout most of the encounter, as Aunt Lydia used to during the Red Circles back in Gilead; she stokes up hatred in the others and uses it to hurt. So, while she is not directly responsible for Aunt Irene’s death, we cannot deny that she played a big part in it. 

As Moira tells her: “Anger is a valid emotion. It’s necessary, important even to heal, but we can’t live there.”

Will June ever be able to let go of her hate and move on? This writer certainly hopes so, although she will admit that anger isn’t all bad; after all it can also fuel resistance and protest and right wrongs. Perhaps June should be channelling her anger in the courtroom rather than her support group, though.

What will happen to Janine now?

Janine is alive, hurrah! But she is also firmly back under Aunt Lydia’s ever-watchful eye, which is… well, which is decidedly not good.

“I can’t believe that poor Janine has ended up back in the clutches of Aunt Lydia,” tweeted one fan.

“Protect Janine at all costs!” added another.

The question remains, though, what will become of our beloved Janine. We know she doesn’t want to be a Handmaid again, but will she be forced to do so once more? Will she be sent to the Colonies? Will she be brainwashed into becoming an Aunt herself, as some have suggested on social media? Or could she continue on with Mayday’s mission from the inside in an effort to bring down Gilead once and for all?

Did June sexually assault Luke?

As reported on 1 August: June’s actions may be narratively understandable (to quote Moira, all of Gilead’s survivors “left that place fucked up about sex”), but there is no getting away from the fact that what she did to Luke was sexual assault.

Speaking about the upsetting scenes, showrunner Bruce Miller tells The Hollywood Reporter: “She’s feeling the delicious control of herself that she hasn’t had for so long – agency over her own life – and it’s so dizzying after everything.”

Miller adds: “She is taking away his agency. We wrote very much that it was her being the aggressor and him being reluctant and uncomfortable, but that’s all that we put into the script. The actual dynamics of moving around and the give and take of consent was really up to the actors and the director in that time. Everybody’s story is their own story. 

“One of the reasons it’s so hard to watch is that it does ring true as something that a woman like June might be going through. It seems to track. But it doesn’t make it any less horrible.”

Will June and Luke ever be able to have a normal relationship again?

While Luke spends the end of the episode beaming at June as if nothing untoward has taken place between them, OT Fagbenle tells Entertainment Weekly that Luke and June’s relationship “is really tested” after their reunion and that they will have quite a few failures as they try to navigate their new normal. It’s going to be a tough road for them, both together and separately.

“I’ve come to think that the writers of The Handmaid’s Tale aren’t overly enamoured by happy endings,” he adds. “So I think at this point, I have dreams of an ambivalent ending.”

And what does this mean for June and Nick?

Fagbenle also tells EW that Nick (Max Minghella) will come between Luke and June before too long.

“Don’t worry, Nick fans,” he says. “Nick rears his tricky little face into our business.”

Luke and June in The Handmaid's Tale season 4
Luke and June have a difficult road ahead of them.

What will June do to Fred and Serena?

While June’s confrontation with Serena may have proven cathartic, it also drives the latter into a pragmatic alliance with her husband, Fred (Joseph Fiennes). Which makes sense; now that June has made it abundantly clear that she plans to testify against every terrible act they committed in Gilead, they need to do something to save their skins.

Miller, however, has hinted that June will use this legal battle to take down the Waterfords, whether they’re standing alongside one another or not. But is it really what she wants?

“She’s still in Gilead. Her heart, her brain, so much of who she is is tied to Gilead,” he tells Variety.

“There’s push and pull. I want June to nail Serena and Fred and all of those people and get them in jail. I also want June to forget about those people and move on with her life. And June wants both of those things.”

Will Luke and June ever be able to reconnect?

As reported after episode six on 25 July: While Luke has been waiting years to finally reunite with his wife, it’s unclear how they’ll be able to connect after all that June has been through. Her trauma, her horrors, her time in Gilead sits between them as unmoving as an old stone wall – so is there any hope for the once happily married couple?

Speaking about their reunion, O.T. Fagbenle tells TV Insider: “[Luke has] been desperate to connect with her and to have a teammate in trying to get their daughter back, but he kind of finds someone who’s really been damaged by what she’s been through and also grown in many ways — in her leadership and a desire for vengeance in a way. 

“He has to contend with that and figure out a way to be with it or not be with it. That’s kind of key to their relationship going forward.”

O.T. Fagbenle as Luke in The Handmaid's Tale season 4
What does the future hold for Luke and June now?

Fagbenle adds: “A lot of what Luke has to try and figure out is who June is post these most traumatic experiences that she’s been through.”

What does June’s intake of breath mean as she steps off the boat and onto Canadian soil?

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Samira Wiley explains: “There are so many things that breath means… the reason she is even on that boat is because Moira brings up her other daughter, Nichole, who lives in Canada. That breath encompasses all of this. It encompasses everything that she has left behind, that she has given up to be here and make this decision. But also, there is almost a question mark at the end: ‘I don’t have to be afraid?’

“One of the last things Moira says to June when we get passed the guards is, ‘We’re going to Canada. You made it.’ And those are words that I’m sure are kind of unbelievable to June when spoken. That breath, I think, has so much in it. And, as we all know, Lizzie Moss as an actor put everything into that breath and I think we’ll see in episodes seven, eight, nine and 10 everything that breath means.”

Will June ever be able to forgive herself for leaving Hannah behind? 

June may have fled Gilead, but that doesn’t mean she’s truly escaped its damaging clutches. We know for a fact that Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) endlessly tortured the Handmaids into believing they are to blame for all the evils committed against them.

And so, just as they were forced to chant “your fault, your fault” at one another at the Red Centre, Gilead’s victims continue to turn their blame inwards. And it’s all too clear, from June’s interactions with Luke and Moira, that she truly does believe herself to be a bad mother for leaving Hannah behind.

We can only hope, then, that her loved ones are able to convince her otherwise. 

Who will June be now that she is no longer a Handmaid?

Clearly, June cannot go back to who she was before Gilead. And, just as clearly, she cannot remain the rebellious Handmaid we know and love… so who will she be in Canada? Well, much like Moira and Emily (Alexis Bledel) before her, she faces a struggle to reconnect with herself. Because, while she is undoubtedly a survivor, she bears the mental and physical scars of the endless abuse she has been subjected to. And, while she was a rebel, a fighter and a symbol of hope back in Gilead, in Canada she will be stripped of this status; now, she’s yet another American refugee. A grieving mother. A helpless civilian. 

It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how she adapts to this.

Did Moira do the right thing?

Rescuing June comes at a price; it has damaged the NGOs operations in Gilead, not to mention Moira’s relationship with Oona. And yet…

Well, this is more than simple nepotism on Moira’s behalf. Yes, she broke the rules to smuggle June into Canada because June is her best friend, but there’s no denying that June has come to represent more than this; this is the same woman, after all, who helped to rescue over 80 children from Gilead, inspired revolt, poisoned a number of high-ranking Gileadean officials, and gave her fellow Handmaids something (and, more importantly, someone) to believe in.  

June and Janine in episode 4, season 4 of The Handmaid's Tale
Misogyny and exploitation wasn’t invented by Gilead, sadly.

Rescuing June was, in this writer’s opinion, 100% the right decision. If only because she is thoroughly sick of enduring the horrors of Gilead at this point.

How will June and Moira’s friendship be impacted by all of this?

“June is the missing part of the puzzle to Moira’s happiness,” Samira Wiley tells THR. “But when she finds June, she’s coming up against the realisation that it’s not going to be as easy and it’s not going to be as much of a fairytale as she wants it to be. And that’s difficult for her because she has carved out her life away from June and it’s worked out – not perfectly, but pretty well – and so she’s wanting June to fit into that somehow.”

Is Janine dead?

As reported on 18 July, after episode five aired: Narratively, it makes a lot of sense that Janine is dead; after all, June has unwittingly led many of her friends to their death this season – what’s one more?

Despite this, though, many fans believe that the Handmaid is still alive; not just because it seemed as if the series was setting her up as its new protagonist, but also because… well, because there wasn’t a body.

“I think Janine’s alive, simply because I think they’d have shown us her death if she was really gonna die, so I say she’s not dead,” one predicted. “But I also think we won’t know until the end of the season or possibly season 5 she might turn up to be alive.”

What has Madeline Brewer said about her character’s fate?

When speaking with TheWrap, Brewer refused to say whether or not Janine’s decision to go with June would prove a “fatal” one. 

“Who is to say whether or not it was a fatal choice? I will not say,” the actor said. “But the fact that Janine made a choice based on just herself and what she thought would be best for herself… I think she made a choice based on the fact that she loves June, she does. 

“She loves her like a sister, like a friend, like her own blood.” 

Madeline Brewer as Janine in The Handmaid's Tale
Is Janine being set up as June’s protégé in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Why was Moira in Gilead?

Moira is part of the force of NGOs sent to aid those on the border after Gilead agrees to a temporary ceasefire, although they bomb the frontier heavily just before the ceasefire is to officially go into place. A diplomatic mission, we hasten to add, that Commander Lawrence set up… hmm.

Who is Commander Lawrence working for? Really?

Lawrence put June in the line of fire when he organised that air raid, but he was also responsible for setting up the diplomatic mission and temporary ceasefire that saw her reunited with Moira. So, when he told Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) that he wants to “fix this country” and “make things right again,” did he mean Gilead or the OG America?

Is Nick… evil now?

Nick (Max Minghella) might love June, but he has become a very powerful Commander within Gilead. He has a seat on the Council, he has the ability to spare Commander Lawrence’s life, and he is just… yeah, he’s a proper Gileadean mover and shaker. Yes, he says he’s  double-agent, but could it also be that he’s seeking power for another reason all together?

What does Rita really think of Serena?

As reported on 11 July, after episode four aired: Rita (Amanda Brugel) is summoned to the cell of her old mistress, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), who greets her former Martha as an old friend and reveals that she’s pregnant… with a boy. 

For a hot moment, it seems as if Rita is happy for Serena, praying for the baby with her and barely flinching when Serena refers to her as a “friend.” Later, however, we see Rita visit Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) in prison and bluntly inform him that his wife is pregnant. 

“You deal with your family,” she tells him. “It’s not my job anymore and I thank God for that every day.”

It’s an unexpected move from Rita, but one we can get behind. Indeed, during her visit to the detention facility, Rita “recognises Serena trying to weave her web of ‘I miss you, I miss our friendship,’ and the word ‘friend’ is like a dagger,” Brugel tells TV Line

“So while Rita is happy for her and happy for the baby, she slowly realises that she’s been drawn back into this web and knows that finally she has the freedom to decide whether or not she wants to engage. And she doesn’t.”

Serena Rita in The Handmaid's Tale
Rita takes unexpected revenge on her former mistress, Serena.

Is Janine shaping up to replace June as our new leader?

Janine has always been viewed by the likes of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and the other Handmaids as being somehow weaker of mind and spirit than the others, and she’s the only person in the world left that June can rely on. However, showrunner Bruce Miller has promised that Janine will surprise all of us.

“At the end of the year it’s actually Janine’s arc of leadership,” he tells Variety. “She takes a lesson from June and really by the end has to take on a mantle of leadership, and she does. It’s a protégé story: What does her protégé turn into? A lot of her ruling philosophy is the same as my mother’s parenting philosophy, which is, my mother just thought about what her mother would do and did the opposite.”

But what will happen when Janine learns the truth about Caleb?

We know, just like June knows, that Janine’s young son was killed in a car accident one year into Gilead’s regime, shortly after he was forcibly taken from his mother. 

Previously, of course, June protected Janine by lying to her about Caleb’s fate. She told her that he was growing up in the sun of California, a sweet dream which kept Janine smiling in the face of Gilead’s horrors.

But will this lie come back to haunt them both? Only time will tell, we suppose.

What awaits Janine and June in Chicago?

Jacey Heldrich, who wrote episode four, tells TV Line: “We were so excited to get to Chicago. We spent so much time researching it, and we spent so much time reading about Aleppo and Kabul. Like, what do these cities that have been decimated but they haven’t been really occupied yet, what is life like there? 

“So our conception of Chicago is that it is not Gilead. They are rebels, but they’re more just still fighting a war.” 

Hopefully, Janine’s shocking decision at the end of the episode will provide June with the time she needs to properly regroup and come up with a real plan. Hopefully, she will be able to forge some real good in Chicago, and maybe find the true Mayday rebels she’s been so desperately searching for.

Maybe.

The Handmaid's Tale production still
We’re calling it: this was 100% the bleakest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale to date.

Will we ever see Hannah again?

As reported on 4 July, after episode three aired: Before The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 even began, one genius fan theory about the series began to gain traction on Reddit; that Hannah’s arc on The Handmaid’s Tale will lead up to the events of Margaret Atwood’s sequel, The Testaments

For those who haven’t read the book (spoilers ahead), Hannah is given a new name, Agnes, and grows up in Gilead. With little to no recollection of her mother, she later becomes an Aunt, and is referred to by her rank as Aunt Victoria. 

The user’s theory states: “Lydia will bring Hannah to become an Aunt when the time comes, and for June to set up the [Mayday] network in Canada for Lydia to send the inside information through. Due to the upper Commanders attempting to gain Fred back, they trade June for the Waterfords and attempt to demand Nichole as well, but Luke and Moira have sent Nicole into hiding with a couple underground. Moira keeps in contact with the couple and she and Emily start doing more for the resistance within Canada.”

Jordana Blake as Hannah in The Handmaid's Tale
Will Hannah grow up to become an Aunt in The Handmaid’s Tale?

Intriguing stuff, right?

Is it all over for Luke and June?

It seems for a wee while that Luke (O. T. Fagbenle) has given up on his wife entirely.

“She chose to stay in Gilead and she knew she’d probably get caught,” he tells Moira (Samira Wiley). “She knew she’d probably never see me again. She knew she’d probably never see either of us [he and Nichole] again. That’s the choice that she made, and I’ve got to respect it. I’ve got to respect her.”

Thankfully, though, the show decides not to strip away this last shred of hope from us; after a government liaison tells him about her own grandmother, who “used to bury a green persimmon in the backyard for luck,” Luke is shown taking baby Nichole to do the same in his own garden. He still believes, against all the odds, that June will find her way back to him. God, we hope this is truly the case.

The Handmaid's Tale season 4: episode 3 production still
It has been an intense fourth season, and a bleak one, too.

Will June blame herself for the deaths of Alma, Brianna, and the others?

Miller certainly hopes so. Speaking to Variety, he explains: “I want her to feel responsible. Whether she feels guilty is a slippery thing because who’s guilty, who’s responsible? It’s really Gilead. But yes, she is weighted down, hugely, by what she has done, thought, wanted to do, how her desires have changed, how ruthless she’s become and how she finds satisfaction in violence sometimes. 

“The entire show is, ‘Look what I’ve done. How can I resolve myself?’”

The Handmaid's Tale S4 E2: Serena Joy and Fred Waterford
Serena Joy learns that she is pregnant in Nightshade (aka episode two, season four of The Handmaid’s Tale).

Will Serena Joy be forced into a life as a Handmaid?

As reported on 27 June, after episode two aired: After being shot in the stomach by a sniper, Serena was told she could never get pregnant – something which devastated her, as she had always dreamed of becoming a mother. 

Considering that all signs have, too, pointed to her abusive husband Fred (Joseph Fiennes) being infertile, it’s likely that Serena will see this shock pregnancy announcement as… well, as something of a miracle. 

However, in the brutal, misogynistic world of The Handmaid’s Tale, fertile women are a rare commodity, which means that – to Gilead’s Commanders, at least – Serena’s value is now wholly dictated by the inner machinations of her womb. And, while she’s in Canada at the moment, there’s every chance that she could be extradited back to Gilead, tagged up, and forced to don a red habit of her own. 

Yes, she could become a Handmaid herself. 

It’s a horrible kind of karmic retribution, true, but not an unlikely one, especially now that Serena has exposed herself as something of a troublemaker and a rebel (remember when she dared to read aloud?). And especially now that she and Fred are seemingly on opposite sides of a fight; he might not be able (or want) to save her.

Handmaid's Tale S4 E1: June (Elisabeth Moss) recovers from her wounds
Channel 4 boxsets: The Handmaid's Tale.

Can June really trust Nick? 

Face facts, people; Nick, who first slept with June under orders of Serena and fought in the Crusades to help make Gilead a reality in the early days, is a potential villain in the making. Yes, he seems to love June. Yes, they have a child together (or might do, anyway – more on that in a minute). And yes, he says he’s working deep undercover for Mayday… but he has risen insanely quickly up through the ranks of Gilead. Plus, he just stormed that safe house in a bid to track down all of those missing Handmaids, seemingly for nefarious reasons, and dragged June off to god knows where.

Yeah, we’re just not sure we trust Nick anymore. So sue us.

Is Nick really Nichole’s biological father?

Look, if Fred can father children, that surely casts doubt on the identity of Nichole’s biological father. After all, he was regularly raping June (in accordance with Gilead’s horrendous reproductive rituals) at the same time that she and Nick were conducting their passionate love affair. 

Is it so much a stretch of the imagination, then, to suggest that Fred, not Nick, is Nichole’s real father? And, if so, what does this mean for Serena and Fred’s custody battle to reclaim the little girl?

What happened to the other Handmaids?

Nick doesn’t have them, we know this much – but where are they? And do they have what it takes to stay hidden? We’d love to say yes to the latter, but it’s worth remembering that, during the raid at the start of this episode, it was June who kept the others cool, quietening them and giving orders to so they wouldn’t be detected.

To quote Han Solo, we have a bad feeling about this. 

And who betrayed June and co?

It’s safe to assume that the safe house location was leaked… but by who? Esther seemed deeply unhappy with the idea that the Handmaids would be moving on without her, but we like to think that she wouldn’t respond with vengeance. And, to be honest, she’s so anti-Gilead that it would be completely out of character for her.

Who, then? Could it be that one of our Handmaids is (gulp) a spy? And, if so, which one?

Esther (Mckenna Grace) bullies Janine (Madeline Brewer) in Handmaid's Tale still
Esther declares herself the “mistress of the house” in the season four premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Why does June encourage Esther to commit murder?

As reported on 14 June, following the season four premiere: Esther’s story might be one of the darkest we’ve yet seen in The Handmaid’s Tale, as we learn that the child bride’s husband has invited multiple men to his house and had them rape her in order to conceive a child.

One of those men, a Guardian, is caught loitering around the farmhouse – and June has him chained to the barn’s rafters, before giving us her best Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) impression and whipping her fellow Handmaids up into a state of vengeful fury.

June, though, doesn’t deliver the final blow; instead, she hands a cleaver to Esther and encourages the 14-year-old to murder her own rapist, which the teenager does with nary a second thought.

It’s a frightening moment, and one which may give many viewers pause; has June, in mirroring the punishments and tactics of Gilead, become too similar to the enemy she has fought so hard to defeat? Quite possibly. However, one could argue that, by having a Wife kill a Guardian, our hero is helping to turn the future of Gilead against it from within; after all, she is, essentially, encouraging the snake to eat its own tail.

Hmm.

Why does June tell Esther that she loves her? And why does she refer to her as ‘Banana’?

Later in the episode, Esther – previously furious with June for not doing more to fight Gilead – slips into bed alongside the older woman and whispers that she loves her. June, delirious with pain, replies, “I love you too, Banana.”

You can remind yourself of this key moment by watching the scene below:

Now ‘Banana’, as fans of the show will no doubt remember, is the affectionate nickname that June uses for her actual daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake). And, while it’s easy to assume that this moment in the show is all down to a feverish hallucination on June’s behalf, it goes deeper than that. 

Why? Well, because June is no longer just a mother to the little girl she loves – the little girl who is still trapped in Gilead and being forced to do god knows what; she’s also a symbolic mother to every Handmaid, every Martha, every girl born into Gilead. And she sees it as her duty to rescue all of them from this tyrannical and misogynist society, if it’s the last thing she does.

On that note, then… is the show setting us up for a world without June?

Oh yes, I know what I said before; June is seemingly invincible (and very bad at escaping). However, and it’s a big however, she’s no longer the Handmaid of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Don’t believe me? All you need to do is listen to how Esther talks to her, and watch how her fellow Handmaids treat her, and it becomes abundantly clear that June has transformed into something far bigger than herself.

To Gilead’s rulers, she is the criminal who stole 86 children from them. To everyone else, she has – much like real life Argentine Marxist rebel Che Guevara – become a generic symbol of the underdog, the idealist, the mother, and the revolutionary hero. Or, as author Michael Casey notes in Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy Of An Image, “the quintessential postmodern icon signifying anything to anyone and everything to everyone.”

Elisabeth Moss as June in The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale season 4 will see June deal with the aftermath of the 'Angel Flight' at the end of season 3.

Essentially, she’s become bigger than herself and the story she’s weaving. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that June is (whisper it) destined to die a martyr – although, to be perfectly honest, she’s going the right way about it if she wants to. Rather, it means that she needs to be removed from the narrative within Gilead in order to a) make room for some new heroes, b) remind her fellow Handmaids and Marthas that they do not need to be led into battle by anyone, and c) regain some sense of humanity.

Thankfully, the trailer for this season has dropped a heavy hint (or five) that this is The Handmaid’s Tale stint that will see June finally reach Canada. Praise be, let it be true.

And is Aunt Lydia being set up as our new hero?

We often assume that the Aunts of Gilead are ‘safe’ from the regime’s cruelty, but the season four opener reminded us that this is not the case. At all. Indeed, when Aunt Lydia was called to speak with the Sons of Jacob, she bore obvious signs of torture from her interrogation by the Eyes. 

Handmaid's Tale S4 E1 sets Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) up as a potential hero
Aunt Lydia has always been one of The Handmaid’s Tale’s biggest villains, but is all that about to change?

Outwardly, she blamed June for everything that’s gone wrong, defending all the other Handmaids and insisting they not be blamed for our revolutionary’s transgressions. Outwardly, she promised to do her job well, and was allowed the chance to do so by the Sons.

Inwardly, though? Well, Lydia’s disdain for the Sons positively sizzled beneath the surface, and her humility in their presence felt… well, it felt horribly forced. And (spoilers ahead for The Testaments) it’s worth remembering that Atwood’s much-anticipated sequel to her original book shows us a very different side to Lydia, revealing that she is a source for Mayday in Canada, smuggling damaging information out of the country in order to bring about Gilead’s destruction.

Could it be that The Handmaid’s Tale is setting Lydia up on this same trajectory? We could use another antihero, after all…

All four seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale are available to stream via All 4.

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Images: Channel 4/Hulu

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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